No-Meat Diets: 3 Tips for Getting Started With a Plant-based, Vegan or Vegetarian Lifestyle by Dr. Vikki Petersen
A plant-based diet is a diet that primarily revolves around eating non-animal foods and provides a wide array of nutrients, which many experts believe holds the key to good health. Plant-based diets reduce inflammation, the lynchpin of most degenerative diseases killing Americans. If done correctly, a plant-based diet is satisfying, energizing, mentally balancing and a good way to shed extra pounds.
A plant-based, vegan and/or vegetarian diet can feel like a scary lifestyle to jump into, especially with all the common misconceptions and misinformation being spread around. But it doesn’t have to be!
Often, individuals are afraid to begin because they assume they will stop enjoying food and they will feel hungry all the time. In fact, cravings will actually go away on a plant-based diet and, with some effort, food is incredibly satisfying. A balanced plant-based diet includes a wide variety of foods, including spices, herbs and ingredients that provide richness of flavor and satisfaction to your palate as well as your body.
Another common misconception is that you cannot get enough protein or build muscle mass with a plant-based, vegan or vegetarian diet. It is quite easy to consume all the protein you need on a daily basis if you are paying attention and do a little planning. Most Americans do not appreciate the wide array of plant-based foods that provide some protein such as lentils, chickpeas and chia seeds and many believe that you cannot build muscle, be strong or athletic successfully without eating meat. Try telling that myth to the strongest man in the world, literally, who is not just plant-based, but completely vegan. There are many elite athletes who are either plant-based or vegan.
So, how can one easily get started with this lifestyle? Here are my top three tips to help get you started on a plant-based, vegetarian or vegan diet:
- Start Slow: Begin your plant-based journey with one day each week that you eschew animal-derived products. Meatless Mondays actually evolved from this idea. Make sure that you eat enough and include healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, avocados and healthy oils so that you are not left feeling “hangry.” Think a whole day is too much? Start with a single meal and go from there.
- Identify Your Favorite Plant-based Foods: Be sure to identify some plant-based foods that you already enjoy. Include the fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes you have eaten and found enjoyable. Then, add the animal-based dishes that are your favorites to your list, so that you can begin to research plant-based alternatives. As an example, “tuna pasta” was a family favorite that we now make completely plant-based and everyone agrees it is better than the original!
- Plan Ahead: Plan ahead for your meals and educate yourself on what a meal with adequate protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates looks like. If you enjoy cooking, this journey is much easier for you. Find online resources for recipes and ideas for substituting plant-based products into your meals. A patient who was convinced he could “never” enjoy coffee again without cream is now in love with a coconut-based creamer. I can also suggest my website where we have hundreds of plant-based recipes and healthy substitutions for animal products.
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